CALVIN: An Open Letter to Candidates in the Federal Electio

CALVIN: An Open Letter to Candidates in the Federal Electio

Postby Oscar » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:26 pm

An Open Letter to Candidates in the Federal Election 2008-09-22

Dear Candidates:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has waged a vendetta to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Since forming government he has abused his power and used unfair, undemocratic, and illegal means to accomplish his end. He may think he can do this to grain farmers because we are a small percentage of voters. However if Canadians entrust him with a majority government, these actions against the CWB demonstrate his true nature and foreshadow how he will deal with any public policy issues he opposes.

He has abused his power by firing the CEO and competent, independent CWB Directors and appointing puppets who support the Conservative party position. He has illegally interfered in CWB Director Elections. He has violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a gag order on the CWB and conducted a deceitful, manipulative and undemocratic plebiscite on barley marketing. He then tried to remove barley from CWB marketing by Cabinet order and when the courts ruled that to be illegal he responded publicly saying those who opposed his policy would “get walked over”. In the current CWB Director election he has removed all spending limits for third parties so that the big corporations will be able to spend thousands if not millions on organizing and advertising to support director candidates who will dismantle the CWB from the inside.

His actions in attacking the farmers who support the CWB indicate a personality that has no respect or tolerance for a different point of view and demonstrate that he will use whatever means necessary to accomplish his ends. A Harper majority government will make short work of the CWB. Then, who will be next to “get walked over”?

Sincerely:
copy, original signed by:
Art Macklin 10242-111 Ave. Grande Prairie, Alberta T8V 1T8

Art Macklin operates a family farm in the Peace River area of north-western Alberta. He was elected for three terms (12 years) to the Advisory Committee to the CWB and then for two terms (8 years) to the CWB Board of Directors. He was Chairman of the Canadian International Grains Institute and a former President of the National Farmers Union. He was also one of the 12 farmers to challenge the Harper government in court on their illegal actions.

Backgrounder

By working together using the CWB single-desk selling authority for wheat and barley, Western Canadian farmers have the ability to collectively bargain in an agricultural industry dominated by giant multinational corporations. The CWB operates under the authority of the CWB Act and is governed by a 15 person Board of Directors with 10 directly elected by farmers and 5 appointed by the Federal Government. Prairie farmers have consistently elected a majority of directors who support the CWB’s current marketing mandate. Currently, eight of the ten elected directors are strong supporters of single desk selling. Numerous academic studies and international trade tribunals have documented that farmers earn hundreds of millions in additional revenue through CWB marketing. In the 2007-08 crop year just ended, the additional sales revenue attributable to the single desk is estimated to top $560 million dollars.

Abuse of Power

Under the previous government the appointed directors were selected on the basis of their legal and business expertise. Shortly after Harper came to power they were all replaced with individuals who supported the government position to eliminate the CWB’s marketing authority. These appointments make it clear that in Harper’s world, individuals appointed to government positions get there on the basis of supporting a party line, which is patronage of the worst sort. Former Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl publicly stated this would be the criteria for appointments to the CWB. Minister Strahl also fired the CWB’s highly respected CEO over the strong protests of the elected directors.

Undemocratic, irresponsible and illegal

In the middle of the 2006 CWB Director elections the Minister ordered the CWB to eliminate over 16,000 producers (36% of the eligible voters) from the list to automatically receive a ballot. Evidently the Minister believed the majority of those were a class of farmers who might be more inclined to vote for candidates who supported the CWB.

Would a Harper government apply the same principles to general elections? Should voters be culled from the list on the basis of their income, property ownership, location or other arbitrary criteria that occur to the ruling party? A Harper government could introduce legislation that allowed it to manipulate the voters’ list of professional associations, supply management marketing boards or trade unions for the purpose of influencing the makeup of their governing bodies.

Illegal and against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Using a section of the CWB Act that was included to deal with extraordinary situations such as embargos against foreign countries or wars, the government prohibited the CWB from expending any funds to advocate on behalf of it’s single-desk selling authority. Their rational, as published in the Canada Gazette, was that not all producers supported CWB marketing and therefore they should not be forced to pay for a position they oppose.

I doubt if a Harper government would want to apply this principle to taxpayers, if they do not agree with how their tax dollars are being spent? However having established the principle on grain farmers Harper could use it on trade unions, professional associations and other groups?

There is rarely 100% support for any public policy or group. The CWB challenged the gag order under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and won. The court ruled the government’s restriction was a denial of freedom of speech and therefore illegal. When government lawyers attempted to portray the gag order as “normal government practice,” the judge disagreed saying that it might be normal only in countries like Zimbabwe. One can only conclude that this is “normal practice” for the Harper Conservatives.

Undemocratic, unfair, deceitful and manipulative

The government conducted a flawed plebiscite on barley marketing and spent over $1.2 million of taxpayers’ money to advocate against the CWB. Meanwhile the CWB was prevented by cabinet order from defending itself. The plebiscite placed three options before producers; the first and third options were worded in the impersonal third person while the government’s preferred second option was worded in the friendly and more personal first person. Parallel types of questions on other issues would read as follows, for example:
A. Health care should be public and funded by the tax base.
B. I would like to have both a private and high quality public health care system and not pay taxes for the public system.
C. All health care should be private.

In the case of the barley plebiscite, option B was not realistic. However the government added the votes for B and C together to declare that 62% of farmers wanted to market barley on their own. In fact only 13.8% of the farmers voted for the CWB to have “no role in barley marketing”. In the Harper government plebiscite there was no publicly available voters list, there were no scrutineers for the count and all ballots were identified with a number that allowed the government to identify how each producer voted. Some barley producers received multiple ballots while others received none.

A Harper majority government could use the same process to determine public opinion on other issues such as health care, public education or single desk selling for dairy and poultry producers?

Illegal and threatening

Having failed to destroy the CWB by previous methods the Harper government tried to remove barley from CWB marketing authority by closed door Cabinet order. Twelve farmers challenged the government in court and the court ruled that Harper and his cabinet had acted illegally. Harper appealed the court decision and lost again. At this point Harper publicly stated that he would succeed in his goal and that people who opposed his position would “get walked over”.

Farmer citizens had to take the government to court to uphold the laws made by Parliament and the Government of Canada. M.P.s take an oath to uphold the laws of the country but that, to Harper, is just a piece of paper to be ignored. A Harper government will ignore the laws it does of not want to obey. Was Harper’s implicit threat of violence against farmers who support the CWB prudent and statesmanlike behaviour and will it foster respect, tolerance and harmony in Canadian society?

Undemocratic and illegal

There is a CWB Director election being conducted at the same time as this federal election. The previous CWB Election Regulations restricted third party spending to $10,000. Harper has changed the regulations to remove all limits on election spending by big corporations or wealthy vested interests. The CWB has taken on the big corporations to defend farmers. The CWB challenged CN and CP Rail in a level of service complaint and won approximately $30 million which was paid out to farmers. As a large shipper the CWB is able to negotiate with the railways on behalf of farmers. The CWB was instrumental in stopping the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified wheat. The CWB has successfully defended Canadian farmers against 14 American trade challenges. The $560 million additional revenue would go to the big grain multinationals if the CWB is destroyed. With the removal of third party spending limits, CN and CP, Cargill, Monsanto, American groups, the Alberta government and any other wealthy vested interest can secretly fund front groups to buy the election for anti-CWB candidates who will dismantle the CWB. A few million dollars invested in anti- CWB advertising and organizing could return hundreds of millions of dollars to the big corporate interests.

Would a Harper majority government also remove spending limits for third parties in federal and provincial elections?

Deliberate misrepresentation or willful ignorance

Although Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is the Minister who has the responsibility to report to Parliament on the CWB he either deliberately misrepresented the facts or he is woefully ignorant on the CWB file. In a recent article in the Manitoba Co-operator, senior reporter Allan Dawson, documented seven factual errors that Minister Ritz made regarding the CWB in a presentation to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Harper does not appear to value fact or truth when accomplishing his ideological goals.

Is it prudent to have Harper in control of the government propaganda bureaucracy?
Oscar
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